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Looking Forward to a Lost Weekend

photo (25)My more fun and better half is away for a boys’ weekend, which will no doubt resemble Animal House and Old School (please let there be embarrassing pictures). It makes me sad when he goes, but within minutes, I am horizontal on the couch, indulging in nerdy girl hibernation and catching up on my stories, especially last night’s Scandal. Speaking of which, can anyone name the actor from last night’s episode, the one who makes an appearance in Romance Is My Day Job?

And now back to the items in this picture. Any guesses where I got this DVD of The King’s Speech? It isn’t mine.

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Tips for a Winning Beginning!

iStock_000002358778SmallHow cool is that for a title? It rhymes and the ! just seals the deal, doesn’t it? I’ll discuss titles some other time–though, if you think about it, they are beginnings of a sort. Once I turn the page, I become a little pickier. Bookaholics have to be picky. As I weed out books from my shelf, I do a scan of the first few pages, then decide if I want to continue. It’s a great equalizer since I will recycle books by established and debuts authors. If the opening doesn’t grab me, the rest won’t either. “But the story really gets going after the first few chapters.” This I’ve heard before to convince me against a revision letter, but that’s too late for me–unless it’s a weighty tome, like Don Quixote. Here, I have different expectations. For a winning beginning in romance I want to:

See something. Show me where this story takes place. I’m not a fan of starting a story with a line of dialogue, unless it’s eye-popping. If it must be done, follow with grounding. Who says what, why did she say that and where are they?

Like someone. Is the first character I see a person I could love? Please let it be so. For me, the heroine has to sell me. She’s my quasi-surrogate and I want her to get what she needs (and wants).

Follow the action. Are they doing anything noteworthy? Let’s hope so, otherwise, recycling. (By now, you might know my pet peeve about starting a story with someone in a car) Often, I see projects where the opening is in the wrong place (or should be deleted).

Connect with the writer’s voice. Enjoyment of how a writer puts words together is key. It’s funny, there can be a perception of “sameness” in romance writing, but every writer has a different voice. It’s the truth.

Writers spend a long time crafting that beginning, especially since editors don’t start reading in the middle (sometimes I do). Since I’ve begun a story a few times, I understand the tendency to go back, edit, maybe add details about the backstory to better inform the reader. The whole info-dump in the opening can be a rookie mistake that lands a story in the trash. Over time, practicing, endless typing, thinking and rewriting will sharpen your beginning. Studying others is an important tool as you develop your own storytelling gifts. Also, keep in mind even more steps, in addition to the ones above:

Keep the beginning spare. There’ s a temptation to embellish, bedazzle and overwrite in those first few paragraphs. Don’t.

Make the meeting happen. There’s no law that says the hero and heroine can’t meet in Chapter Two. But try bringing them together sooner, abruptly, unexpectedly (but they don’t have to literally bump into each other and go, “Whoa” with electric bolts singeing their arms).

Gently show us where these people are. A little setting detail. A sprinkle of backstory. Not too much. Not to little. I mean, you don’t want to leave us hanging in space like Sandra Bullock in Gravity.

Present your thesis by the end of Chapter One. I want an idea of the main problem/story arc right in the beginning. It puts the reader in that mode and keeps her there through the chapters (as the writer builds momentum along the way). Once you present your thesis, you can totally mess with your reader’s head.

And then the fun truly begins. Stay tuned for more tips….

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Romance Is My Day Job Trailer–Behind the Scenes

Black and White Reading (2)In our apartment, here I am reading my lines, trying not to croak or squeak. Luckily, I had high-octane coffee to help. Trailer Director was single-minded and knew exactly how I needed to read the lines and what to emphasize. He accidentally left his marked up script on our couch and I kept it as a souvenir.

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Bench (2)By now, six hours have gone by, thus my frowny-face. We’re in the park right in front of City Hall. It’s getting dark and I can’t wait to film the part in the cupcake bakery. We wind up getting three desserts–one dulce de leche cupcake, a pecan bar and chocolate chip cookie. If I knew then what I ordered minutes later, maybe I could have cracked a smile?

Can’t help but notice my nice blue purse.

Here’s the finished product.

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Post Partum Romance

1920249_662797473758533_506956691_nNot that there’s anything wrong, but I wasn’t prepared for the post-partum of a book release. Luckily, I know how to combat the blues and they are lifting. For a week, though, I did some wall-staring and couldn’t quite understand what anyone was saying. After checking in with some writer friends, I’ve learned this post-partum is perfectly normal! Being a zombie is just fine! I’m rocking it, doing what feels right, and reconnecting with my blessed routine (and adding cake). Simple pleasures are key:

Like handing in work a month early (though I’m going to be a month late on something else).

Going for a walk with Sam and seeing Seth Meyers coming out of his abode (we know where he lives now). Half an hour later seeing Paul Bettany in Whole Foods. Did not tell Sam who they were until after the fact because he will approach them.

Waking up to this nice review.

And you know, I simply enjoy Mondays.

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Addicted to Lists–and Disaster Movies

china_syndrome_1797989bEither Buzzfeed has taken over my FB newsfeed or we’ve all become addicted to quizzes and lists–myself included. Lists eliminate the tedium of reading an entire paragraph. You get the juiciest info distilled into succinct phrases. This is why Powerpoint is fantastic, too. No elaboration or rambling here. Complete sentences? That is so last century. While I do like rambling prose now and then, I jumped at the chance to do lists for various outlets for Romance Is My Day Job. Here are a few:

Huffington Post

Shelf Pleasure

Penguin USA Blog

I might have more coming. Here’s my super-exciting list of chores for this weekend:

  • Try new impulse purchases: a yoga and walking DVD (no self-shaming after I remember I never do exercise DVDs but just keep buying them)
  • Watch China Syndrome (see if I can recreate Jane Fonda’s hair)
  • Finish line edit, but avoid sending to author until Monday
  • Go to Apple Store to get a new battery for my keyboard, be told I need to make a reservation first. Storm off.
  • Pretend to be busy so that laundry gets done magically by someone else (I’m better at folding)
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I Will Never Be Called Back for Black Swan 2

o-LUCILLE-BALL-facebookYesterday, I fell in a giant slushy puddle on a corner street–right in the middle of NYC, during lunch hour. It shocked me. Plus, did I mention I’m a germaphobe? My entire backside was a soggy mess with god-knows-what kind of viruses/parasites/bar-vomit coating my running pants. I felt like Lucille Ball. A nice man stopped to help me up, asking me if I was okay (this doesn’t always happen in the city). I thanked him then proceeded to the gym. Minutes later, I was running like a gazelle on the treadmill, ignoring that I’d pulled everything in my left leg. Several hours later, the pain hit big-time and this morning, since I couldn’t move so well and felt very ungraceful, I decided to wear jeans to the office. I know, CRIMINAL.

I’ve always identified with the clumsy heroine in romance novels and rom-com movies, though resent the cliché, too. It’s an obvious ploy to show vulnerability. Plus, there’s that secret funniness in a ridiculous fall (awful, though, when injury happens). The truth is that some of us can’t get through a ballet or yoga class without toppling over ourselves. I don’t knock over lamps, and I usually don’t fall the way I did yesterday*. I don’t round the corner and drop all my files, but I easily bump into furniture, walk into people and almost slip down stairs. I like to blame genetics for my clumsiness instead of the fact that I need to slow down. Now that I’ve had this NYC moment–my first in eons–I’ll be taking my time.

*Except for my one glamorous fall down the stairs in Paris on the way to the airport–on the day Charles married Diana. The efficient French hospital patched me up in time to catch my flight. There is a scar.